April 9, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1887

"Open Meeting with Sheikh Ayman Al-Zawahiri"

April 9, 2008
Special Dispatch No. 1887

On April 2, 2008, Al-Sahab posted on Islamist websites (among them Al-Ikhlas) an audio recording titled "Open Meeting with Sheikh Ayman Al-Zawahiri." [1] In the audio recording, Al-Zawahiri offers the first set of replies to approximately 100 questions which were reportedly addressed to him a few months ago by members of Islamist forums. [2] Topics discussed in the audio recording include the legitimacy of killing of innocents by Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda's position vis-à-vis Iran, jihad, and repression in Egypt, defections from the jihadi camp, Hamas and its policies, and whether or not one can use a visa as a means of entering a country for the purpose of carrying out an attack on it.

The following are excerpts from Al-Zawahiri's replies:

"If an Innocent Person Was Killed... It Was Either an Unintentional Error or a Necessity"

In response to several accusations made by the questioners that Al-Qaeda engages in killing innocent Muslims, Al-Zawahiri offers an outright denial: "We do not kill innocents - not in Baghdad, nor in Morocco, nor in Algeria, nor anywhere else. If an innocent person was killed during the mujahideen's operations, then it was either an unintentional error or a necessity, as in the case where [the enemy] uses [innocent people as] a [human] shield... We fight those who kill innocents."

With respect to the December 11, 2007 Al-Qaeda attack against government and UN facilities in Algeria, which claimed the lives of dozens of bystanders, Al-Zawahiri says: "Those who were killed in the December 11 attacks in Algeria were not innocent people. According to the communiqué from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, those [killed] were... the infidel Crusaders and government troops who protected them. Our brothers in the Islamic Maghreb are more reliable, just, and innocent than the lying sons of France [i.e., the government] who sold Algeria to [the French] and the Americans."

"The Al-Qassam [Brigades] Must Advise Their Leadership and Demand that it Return to the Correct Path [of Jihad]"

In response to several inquiries regarding his harsh criticism of Hamas, Al-Zawahiri says: "I stepped up my criticism gradually... but when they signed the Mecca Agreement there was no escape from open criticism... They did not heed their brothers' opinion and [instead] persisted without forethought in their path of entering the elections, adhering to a secular constitution, abandoning their Chechen brothers [by meeting with President Putin], and forfeiting four-fifths of Palestine in [the] Mecca [Agreement]... I criticized them and will continue to do so as long as they adhere to a secular constitution and... do not renounce the Mecca Agreement."

With respect to the military wing of Hamas, Al-Zawahiri says: "The mujahideen of the Al-Qassam [Brigades] must advise their leadership and demand that they return to the correct path [of jihad]... If they do not respond to [their advice], then let loyalty to Allah and His Messenger supersede [loyalty to] the organization. If the political leadership senses the sincerity with which the mujahideen of Al-Qassam reject the [notion of] ruling by anything other than the shari'a and... [by] the Mecca Agreement, those leaders will most likely change their position."

"Those Who Side With the Author of the Document of Right Guidance Are Few"

In an attempt to downplay the impact of the recent book The Document of Right Guidance by the prominent jihadi cleric Sayyed Imam, Al-Zawahiri says: "I wish to explain that it was not just 30 people who rejected the concessions contained in [Sayyed Imam's] Document of Right Guidance [which calls for a cessation of military jihad against the Arab regimes]. It was the majority of those who adhere to jihad [in general] and the majority of members in the Jihad [group] in particular, as well as many in the Salafi movement. Those who side with the author of the Document of Right Guidance are few, among them those who were never in the Jihad [group] for a single day, and those who broke away from it a long time ago. Most of them believe that they are deceiving the government by showing agreement. The group of 30 consists of those whom the government considers to be most influential among the imprisoned brothers. Hence, the government isolated them in the attempt to [promote] this futile Document of Right Guidance."

"I Don't Consider a Visa an Assurance of Protection"

In response to a question concerning whether or not a visa is an assurance of protection (aman) on the part of the host country, which then would obligate the visa holder to not harm that country,

[3] Al-Zawahiri says the following: "I do not consider a visa an assurance of protection. [As I mentioned in my recent book], this is the position I and my [mujahideen] brothers have chosen. So whoever relies on it should follow it. However, a person who does not rely on this view should seek other means through which to fight the Crusaders and the Jews. But beware of the third possibility of neglecting the obligatory jihad against them.


[2] For a report about this initiative, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1800, "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Columnist: Al-Qaeda Online Media Initiative ‘Open Meeting with Al-Zawahiri' Is Nothing but ‘A Recruiting Campaign For Al-Qaeda,'" January 4, 2008, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Columnist: Al-Qaeda Online Media Initiative "Open Meeting with Al-Zawahiri" Is Nothing but "A Recruiting Campaign For Al-Qaeda".

[3] For more on this issue see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1821, "Islamist Debate: Are Muslim U.K. Visa Holders and Muslim U.K. Citizens Permitted to Carry Out Attacks in Great Britain?," January 23, 2008, Islamist Debate: Are Muslim U.K. Visa Holders and Muslim U.K. Citizens Permitted to Carry Out Attacks in Great Britain?.

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